There is more to life than airplanes, Part 3

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The prototype of the Cushioncraft CC7 hovercraft a few minutes before a demonstration run, Royal Saint Lawrence Yacht Club, Dorval, Québec, June 1969. Anon., “–.” Air-Cushion Vehicles, July 1969, cover.

Hi there, my reading friend. Yours truly is pleased to welcome you. We have so much to say (type?) today on the Cushioncraft CC7 hovercraft. And yes, there will be plenty of content from Québec and Canada.

Our story began in May 1969, in Montréal, Québec, in the city’s busy harbour to be more precise, when the partly disassembled prototype of the CC7 was unshipped, put on the trailer of an 18 wheel truck and sent to a Department of Transport base at Sorel, Québec. A division of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Authority and the National Research Council tested the reassembled hovercraft. It performed very well, even when faced with 55 kilometres/hour (35 miles/hour) winds and 1.5 metre (5 feet) waves.

The CC7 and its crew also went to Longueuil, Québec, where meetings were held with representatives of United Aircraft of Canada Limited, today’s Pratt & Whitney Canada Incorporated, which made the engine of the hovercraft. The following day, the crew of the CC7 made a double crossing of the formidable Lachine Rapids, on the Saint Lawrence River. This spectacular event was covered by a crew from a local television station flying overhead in a helicopter. These images were broadcasted that same evening. Newspapers wrote about the crossings the following day.

Quite possibly that same June day, the one when the articles got published, the CC7 and 4 other hovercrafts, 2 of them British and 2 of them Canadian, of smaller size, performed demonstration runs at the Royal Saint Lawrence Yacht Club, at Dorval, Québec. The heat was appalling but the only problem was a broken fuel pump on one of the British hovercraft, which was promptly replaced. The British Ministry of Technology, or Mintech as it was commonly called, as we both know, paid for the transport of the 3 British hovercrafts in the hope that potential North American buyers would pay attention. One of the Canadian vehicles demonstrated was the MHV Spectra. If you’re not too naughty, yours truly swears, pinkie swears actually, that he will pontificate on this interesting hovercraft, but not today.

The demonstration runs were the main outdoor activity for the Third Canadian Symposium on Air-Cushion Technology, organised by the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute and an international organisation based in the United States, the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. Apparently held at Montreal-Dorval International Airport, this 3-day symposium was part of a series mentioned in a March 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

The day after the end of the symposium, the CC7 and its crew travelled from Dorval to Ottawa, Ontario. Their destination was the seaplane slipway at Rockcliffe airport, a stone’s throw from the National Aviation Museum, as the Canada Aviation and Space Museum was called back then. Demonstration runs were then conducted near the residence of the British High Commissioner. The CC7 also spent time at the Land Engineering Test Establishment, a military testing facility located near Ottawa. The CC7’s next assignment was a brief series of patrol / search and rescue trials with the Canadian Coast Guard, near Trenton, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Ontario. The trip there and back to Ottawa was made on the trailer of an 18 wheel truck. Disassembling and reassembling the hovercraft was quickly done.

In July, the CC7 and its crew flew to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Disassembling and reassembling the hovercraft was again quickly done. The CC7 then travelled to Tuktotaktuk, today’s Tuktuyaaqtuuq, Northwest Territories, to undergo testing in the Mackenzie River delta. Mintech seemingly paid for the whole thing as well, in the hope that the Canadian oil and gas industries would pay attention. Over a period of more than 2 weeks, the hovercraft performed a series of brief trips, covering about 1 125 kilometres (about 700 miles) in all. Further testing of the CC7 took place at Chestermere Lake, near Calgary, Alberta; Okanagan Lake, near Kelowna, British Columbia; and at Vancouver, British Columbia. How the hovercraft moved in western Canada, by airplane, train and / or truck, is not known to this writer.

All in all, the CC7 and its crew travelled more than 9 600 kilometres (6 000 miles) during the 3 months they spent in Canada. The hovercraft was then shipped to the Panama Canal Zone, an American enclave within Panama, around September, to undergo more testing.

Well, my reading friend, have we had our fill of Québécois / Canadian content? Good. I am pleased to hear that. Now please go away until next week, unless you wish to read something cool, of course.

Would you believe that a Canadian company tested a light utility hovercraft very similar in appearance to the CC7 around 1976? Air Cushion Industries Limited’s head office was located in Mississauga, Ontario. Its small factory, on the other hand, was in Ottawa. Smaller and lighter than its British predecessor, the AC800 remained a one off prototype. Later on, Air Cushion Industries seemingly became McCullough Associates Air Cushion Industries Limited, a company affiliated to Air Rider Transport Incorporated of St. Catherines, Ontario.

Now you can go, my reading friend.

Author(s)
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Rénald Fortier